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Books: Simon Sebag Montefiore, writer of the masterful Stalin; YOUNG STALIN By Simon Sebag Montefiore (Phoenix pounds 9.99 VERDICT: *****.


FOR decades Stalin was seen as the faceless grey bureaucrat who seized his chance for power after the death of Lenin, an image created by his rival - and victim - Leon Trotsky.

But the truth, uncovered in dusty Russian archives after the downfall of the Soviet Union, is far more compelling.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, writer of the masterful Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar, has tracked down the testimonies of Stalin's family, lovers, rivals and victims to reveal the amazing story of the early years of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili - also known as Soso, Koba and finally Stalin (Man of Steel). Born of an alcoholic father and promiscuous mother in a violent Georgian village, Stalin escaped to the seminary where he trained as a priest before abandoning Christianity and embracing Bolshevism. With the zeal of the convert, Stalin formed a gang and began a campaign of terrorist attacks and bank heists to fund the revolution, suffering seven Siberian exiles. Far from obscure, Stalin was Lenin's trusted and ruthless heavy, as this gripping biography makes clear. Highly recommended.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 24, 2008
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